With an esoteric soul and funk reissue program virtually second to none, Chicago’s Numero Group helped usher in an era when ‘crate-digging’ could be accomplished from the comfort of one’s armchair and at the click of a mouse. Part and parcel with that innovation, they also painted a bull’s-eye on their operations as a primary target for bootleggers in search of the choicest sampling fodder. Big players like Madlib and RJD2 plundered the catalog right alongside lesser-regaled turntable alchemists. Certified legal documents soon became an ancillary cost of doing business.
Eccentric Breaks & Beats stands apart in its scope and origins from past cases of consumer confiscation. Pressed by the shadowy production team Shoes and initially released on the parody imprint Numbero Group, the set is more of a fan letter than an outright rip-off/cash-in. Collaged into two LP side-sized cuts that parse further into enigmatically-titled episodes (“John Goodman is Too Cool to Cry”?), it’s an organic aural homage to the label’s seven years and more than 70 releases that manages the distillation feat in just over 40-minutes.
The brass at Numero got wind of the small run circulating amongst select DJs and found themselves surprisingly smitten by the mix. Rather than drop the legal hammer, they got in on the game and (as described in the bold-lettering of the press release) decided to bootleg the bootleg. In this age of instant and anonymous appropriation, that tack rings as something of a hollow victory, but it’s still an admirable move considering the alternatives. The package even evidences its own legal variation on the crime with cartoon cover art that harkens directly back to the Street Beat label’s Ultimate Breaks and Beats series, an anthologized Bible of sorts for DJ intelligentsia across the globe.
The mix plays like a concise highlight reel, with samplings from classic cuts surfacing and receding. The usual DJ techniques of loops, fades, overlays and drop outs checker the scrolling succession of snippets and range from minimally to maximally invasive. In light of the breadth of Numero’s holdings, specific sources aren’t always easy to ID. Well-structured and sequenced, the set has the feel and flow of a typically adept DJ set…but the moments of truly memorable inspiration are comparatively few. Call me a fuddy-duddy if the penny-loafer fits, but I’d personally still prefer repast on the source tracks in un-tampered form.